Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel was obviously unaware that Chicago is regularly referred to by it’s national nickname of Chiraq (Chicago + Iraq). So when filmmaker Spike Lee came to town to film his movie by the same name, Mayor Emanuel publicly protested and requested that Spike Lee change the title of the film.
Meanwhile, on Chicago’s west side, Chicago Bulls Owner and Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf was busy showing recently terminated Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau what Chiraq is all about. And in true Chicago fashion, Reinsdorf gave Thibodeau the old “Chicago Special” by firing him and giving him a Bulls horn in the rear end as security escorted Thibsodeau off the Chicago Bulls premises.
Reinsdorf then struck a blow that was felt all the way to Washington D.C. as he imported THE MAYOR Fred Hoiberg to wrestle the title away form the self proclaimed Chiraq critic Rahm Emanuel. Spike Lee had no idea of the dramatic goldmine he stumbled upon – that is Chicago. In Chicago themed dramas, even the opening scene’s write themselves. And in the latest drama, the opening scene begins with…
…The end of the Tom Thibodeau era and suddenly, the sun shines, the winds blows and the birds chirps as Bulls fans opened our eyes to a new day – at lest for those of us with a basketball I.Q. who knew all along that the Bulls would never go far in the playoffs with Tom Thibodeau as Head Coach. The days are brighter for those of us who knew, because we understand the fact that Thibodeau’s removal has opened the championship window for the Chicago Bulls.
The novice fans – most of whom tend to be Thibodeau groupies – can’t fathom how anyone can have championship aspirations after their beloved Thibs has been so rudely deposed. So I’ll overlook my well founded conclusion that Thibodeau groupies are a misinformed bunch – in my last ditch attempt to enlighten those lost souls with this piece. And in the process maybe (just maybe) uncover one of the tactics used to deceive Thibs groupies into believing the false premise that Thibodeau was an elite head coach.
So, all of you Thibodeau groupies accompany me on a brief tour back to the dawn of the 2011 playoffs, when the first seeded Chicago Bulls were preparing to face the Indiana Pacers. During interviews when asked what changes he would make for his first round playoff opponent Thibodeau stated “…When you get to the playoffs you don’t have to make adjustments…You’re used to studying and preparing…so when you get there (playoffs) there’s no change.”
Unfortunately for Bulls fans and players, Thibodeau wasn’t pulling a (Golden State Warriors Rookie Head Coach) Steve Kerr and was simply lying to the media to avoid tipping off his coaching counterpart of any coming adjustments. Sadly Bulls fans, Thibodeau meant every word.
Right then and there (April, 2011), I (and anyone with a basketball I.Q.) knew the Bulls would never win a championship with Tom Thibodeau at the helm. Thibodeau’s boneheaded philosophy of “adjustments are overrated” had officially slammed shut the Bulls championship window of opportunity.
The fact of the matter is talent alone can only win so many games and the same goes with smart coaching. In order to win a NBA championship talent and excellent coaching have to intersect to produce four wins in a seven game series. There is an old adage that goes…
…”The regular season is the showcase for NBA players and the playoffs is the showcase for NBA Head Coaches.”
So, on the biggest showcase for a head coach, Thibodeau’s opening act was the 2011 first round match up against Indiana. Although the Bulls narrowly escaped the series, Thibodeau was widely considered to have been out coached by Pacer’s interim rookie head coach Frank Vogel.
Luckily, a referee’s quick whistle resulted in a defensively outmatched Carlos Boozer being sent to to the bench in foul trouble, which in turn forced Thibodeau to break his rigid player rotation and replace Boozer with the much taller Omar Asik – a move knowledgeable Bulls fans were clamoring for five minutes into the game. The insertion of Asik predicatively halted the onslaught that was being done to Boozer at the power forward position. In other words, a referee’s whistle saved the Bulls season.
Next, let’s take a shortcut across the grass of the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals – which subsequently proved that Thibodeau learned absolutely nothing from his narrow escapes in the previous rounds.
The Bulls made it to the Eastern Conference Finals and soundly beat Miami in the opening game. The Bulls depth was clearly too much for the top heavy Miami big three to handle. Unfortunately for the players and Bulls fans, Thibodeau’s rigid script called for slow footed forward Kyle Korver to defend cat quick point guard Mario Charmers instead of the equally slow footed Mike Miller. If this match up makes sense and doesn’t incense you, then you are clearly a Thibodeau supporter.
Needless to say, this bad match up caused the Bulls to lose leads, momentum and the Eastern Conference Finals.
Even more atrocious than the Korver-Charmers match up was the absence of scrutiny of Thibodeau’s move by Chicago Sports journalist. Instead of Chicago Bulls beat writers identifying Thibodeau’s flaws (which likely would’ve resulted in positive change) sports journalist stupidly began writing outlandish articles with blasphemous titles like “TOM THIBODEAU HAS REPLACED DERRICK ROSE AS FACE OF THE BULLS.”
In my defense, I accidentally came upon this article within the last three weeks or I would’ve immediately pointed out to Mr. Haugh how ridiculous it is to insinuate that a championship ring-less head coach could be the face of a storied franchise such as the Chicago Bulls. Especially, in a professional sport where only the PLAYERS are the stars. So, anyone wondering why Thibodeau never developed in five years as a head coach need not look any further than articles such as these.
You don’t have to be a Psychology major to know that the worst thing that could happen to a small town boy who feels he’s been overlooked – for twenty years in his craft – is to be suddenly thrust into the limelight and given undue credit and/or fame.
Predicatively the Chicago media pumped up the small town mind of Thibodeau with so much hype, that Thibodeau believed he no longer had to listen to his bosses, i.e. Gar Forman and John Paxson – affectionately known as GarPax.
Thibodeau’s over inflated ego also proved to be a source of conflict between him and the players he was grinding into the ground to pad his regular season win record. This internal strife led to Joakim Noah (The real face of the Bulls franchise in the absence of Derrick Rose) making the statement “Do you think I play hard for a coach? Do you think Jimmy plays hard because of a coach? Do you think Derrick plays hard because of a coach?”
If Noah’s statement didn’t lay the blasphemous titled and fallacy filled “Thibodeau is the face of the franchise…” articles to rest, then you are forever branded a Thibodeau groupie (with all that the title entails) and are condemned to Thibodeau groupie purgatory.
And for all the media hype about tension between Thibodeau and the Bulls front office, Noah’s statement pointed the compass of common sense in the direction of the real strife. Thibodeau’s ego versus the entire Chicago Bulls organization.
Noah’s statement was hardly the first indication that 2015 would be the season that Thibodeau would have to live up to the hype or else. The first indication was the signing of Pau Gasol, Nikola Mirotec, Aaron Brooks and the return of (a wiser) Derrick Rose.
The Bulls roster was now eleven deep and filled with current and former NBA All Stars, Most Improved players and the youngest Most Valuable Player in NBA history. There were no more excuses for Tom Thibodeau.
One long running conspiracy theory was that Thibodeau purposely ran his players into the ground to have a built in excuse for his annual early playoff exits – when he would be over matched by smarter playoff head coaches. However, with the depth of the 2015 Chicago Bulls, there was no longer an acceptable excuse for Thibodeau penchant for grinding the starters into the ground.
Even more ominous for Thibodeau, a wiser Derrick Rose stated at the beginning of the season (and proved) on every opportunity, that if Thibodeau didn’t spread the floor by surrounding him with some combination of sharp shooters (Snell, Mirotec, Dunleavy, Brooks, McDermott) he (Rose) would no longer squeeze, torque, turn and contort his body through a wall of defenders – which lead to his previous injuries – to cover the stench of Thibodeau’s archaic offense.
So, when Thibodeau refused to make the game easy for Rose, Rose returned the favor by wisely refusing to sacrifice his body to make Thibodeau look like a genius during the regular season.
The novice fans and Bulls beat writers interpreted this as “Rose taking too many three point shots.” While knowledgeable fans and those inside NBA circles (with popcorn in hand) correctly discerned that Rose was not taking Thibodeau’s injury bait and was smartly preserving his career – in order to play another day, under a better head coach.
Besides Thibodeau’s failure to make the game easier for D. Rose and his teammates, D. Rose had other reasons to discontinue jeopardizing his health to bail out Thibodau. On numerous occasions over a three year span, Thibodeau failed to stand up for his injured star and correct an onslaught of slanderous reports that were being circulated about Rose. Another (conspiracy?) theory was that Thibodeau himself (angered that he no longer had Rose to subject to his sadistic workouts) was the source of the slanderous leaks.
In another interesting development during what should have been a championship season – the Bulls routinely won games in which they were the underdogs and lost games where they were the overwhelming favorites. The novice fans and beat writers could never put their finger on the reason, but to those with a basketball I.Q. the reason was as obvious as it was simple. One simple tweak of the lineup by Thibodeau assured the predictable outcome of these games one way or another.
For instance, in games where the Bulls were the underdog, Thibodeau played his new weapons Mirotec, Moore and Snell significant minutes which always resulted in victory. And in games where the Bulls were the favorite, Thibodeau sporadically used the aforementioned players and gave the NBA world (and Vegas odds makers) a heavy dose of the ghost of Kirk Heinrich – which always guaranteed defeat.
This pattern of Thibodeau became so predicable, I began to keep tabs of how many bets I would’ve won based upon Thibodeau’s strange pattern. Interestingly, I would’ve won every bet I placed. And as someone who correctly said a certain NBA referee (later known to be Tim Donaghy) had to have been betting on a playoff series I was viewing, I wouldn’t be surprised to someday learn of Thibodeau being lead away in handcuffs in relation to this season.
Definitely something that has me still saying “Hmmm?”
Regardless, conspiracy theories aside, Thibodeau is gone, the true face of the Chicago Bulls franchise (D. Rose) has returned and “The Mayor” who doesn’t complain about Chicago’s nickname is on the job. The Chicago Bulls championship window has opened and hopefully, Spike Lee knows a good story when he sees it and got it all on camera.